The Night Hall — “Necessary Stories” from The Jerusalem Report

Haim Watzman

Mor felt her way down the hall in the dark. Her hand touched a photograph hanging lower than she remembered and sent it swinging, but she steadied it before it fell. She would make no noise and turn on no lights. If Bar and Ayala woke up she would have no quiet to think in. Halfway down she turned back and peered at Aryeh. He was on his back. Suddenly an arm rose and flopped down where she had formerly lain. A hand searched, fruitlessly. Soon he would snore. He would not stir, though, even if Bar and Ayala began to cry, because, by his account, he had averaged just four hours of sleep for the past week and a half. Now he was home from the army for two nights. She closed the door softly and went back down the night hall.

 illustration by Avi Katz
illustration by Avi Katz


The armchairs cast shadows. Street light, filtered through translucent blinds, penumbraed the room. She sat in the closer chair, older but more comfortable. Looking down, she touched the sore spot on her left breast. Aryeh had fallen right on it after he came. Why did men do that? Couldn’t he hold himself up? She was not made of foam rubber, she had told him many times. “I can’t help it, it’s like everything inside me has come out,” he said. “Not everything, just some semen,” she’d correct him. Then he’d kiss her and roll off and take her in his arms and drip everything inside him all over her. And the sheets. No wonder she could never fall asleep afterward.

If this night were a story, she reflected, here would be the point where the bombshell would come. “She reached under the sofa cushion and drew out a photograph of Eli.” Or, “It was time for her to leave.” Or “The gun felt cold under her nightgown.” But she did not have another lover, she was too tired to leave, and she was wearing a sweatsuit, not a nightgown. It was December, after all.

He was always so eager when he came back from the army. Affectionate, and intense. If it weren’t for the children he would lead her straight from the kiss at the door to the bedroom. Like he used to do.

Read moreThe Night Hall — “Necessary Stories” from The Jerusalem Report

The Occupation Times: Ofra, Migron, Hebron, Gaza and a Splash of Optimism

Ofrah is illegal. Not just under international law, like all settlements – but also under Israeli law. The evidence is piling up.

Ofrah, near Ramallah, was the first bridgehead of the Gush Emunim movement in West Bank hills north of Jerusalem. Recently human-rights activists have succeeded in prying information on the settlement from government repositories, relying on the Freedom of Information Act. The evidence shows that most of the settlement is built on land owned by other people.

The latest report was published today by B’Tselem. Using land registry documents, the organization found that most of the land on which the settlement stands is registered as the property of individual Palestinians. Besides that, the settlement lacks any of the basic town planning approval necessary for construction. Built on stolen land, without permits, the comfortable bourgeois neighborhood is in fact a crime made tangible – and a prime example of how the settlement effort has corroded the rule of law.

In 2001,26 years after Ofrah was founded, the next generation of settlers set up the outpost of Migron. As AP’s Matti Friedman reported a few days ago,

Read moreThe Occupation Times: Ofra, Migron, Hebron, Gaza and a Splash of Optimism

Protesting the Settlers in Shul

Haim Watzman I went to a rally against Jewish settler violence at shul yesterday. Kehilat Yedidya is one of only a handful of Orthodox synagogues whose members can make a statement like that. And perhaps the only one in which opposition to the gathering came from the left rather than the right. My friend Daniel … Read moreProtesting the Settlers in Shul

Return to Hebron, City of Nightmares and Hope

Gershom Gorenberg

Abd al-Karim al-Jabari sat yesterday in one of the overstuffed couches that line the sides of his living room in Hebron. He has a square face and a graying mustache, and he spoke quietly, with a hint of a smile, as if apologizing for telling guests his troubles. On the cofee table were bowls of nuts and tiny cups of spiced coffee and plates of baked holiday treats whose names I don’t know.

Jabari’s house is near Kiryat Arba, the settlement that looks down on Hebron, physically and in spirit. He’s put up a wall around his house, with barbed wire at the top. It doesn’t help a lot. Between his house and the gate to Kiryat Arba is the so-called synagogue of Hazon David, a makeshift structure, more tent than building. Hazon David is an illegal outpost, which is to say illegal even in the eyes of the Israeli government. The house of prayer was built to seize land, to extend settlements more quickly and aggressively than the government would. It’s the rare outpost that has been taken down by the army and police – 32 times, I’m told. And put back up 32 times. And still there.

“Someone who’s religious, he brings his children to the syngagoue ,” said Abd al-Karim. He corrected himself, perhaps out of respect for those of his guests wearing kipot. “It’s not a synagogue. They say it’s a synagogue… He prays inside, and he tells his children to go throw stones.”

Read moreReturn to Hebron, City of Nightmares and Hope

House of Ill-Dispute

There have been some pleasant surprises this week. For instance, the Supreme Court ordered the state to explain why it isn’t removing the outpost of Migron, built on other people’s land. The state – meaning Defense Minister Ehud Barak, for practical purposes – wanted an indefinite delay, based on a supposed agreement with the Council … Read moreHouse of Ill-Dispute

Israeli Right Supports Right of Return

Gershom Gorenberg

One of the bizarre ironies of Israeli politics is revealed once more in a response by NGO Monitor* to Nicholas Kristof’s recent column on Hebron and the price of occupation.

Kristof wrote of the particular burden imposed on Palestinians – and on Israel itself – by maintaining Jewish settlers inside Hebron:

The security system that Israel is steadily establishing is nowhere more stifling than here in Hebron, the largest city in the southern part of the West Bank. In the heart of a city with 160,000 Palestinians, Israel maintains a Jewish settlement with 800 people. To protect them, the Israeli military has established a massive system of guard posts, checkpoints and road closures since 2001.

For anyone who has visited Hebron with open eyes, Kristof’s description will appear accurate, even understated. (My own account of a recent trip to that town is here.)

However, NGO Monitor was not happy.

Read moreIsraeli Right Supports Right of Return

Journey to Wadi al-Shajneh: The Illusion of Quiet

Gershom Gorenberg

Dov, the guy who owns the hole-in-the-wall computer lab, explained to Elliott and me that the operating system was only in English; he didn’t have Arabic Windows. As for service, he said, that would be no problem, "as long as he brings it here."

Unfortunately, Muhammad Abu Arkub, to whom we were delivering the computer, has about as much chance as getting a permit to enter Jerusalem for a computer repair as he does of getting back his wife’s gold. Dov wasn’t being snide. He’s the old-fashioned gruff kind of guy who curses about everything and then puts in twice the work fixing your computer that he planned and charges no more, and would be embarrassed if you mentioned it. But the village of Wadi al-Shajneh, in the South Hebron Hills, is beyond where he does service calls. He was surprised when Elliott explained why we were buying the computer. "And you with a kipah ," he said. Not that he objected to what we were doing.

Elliott read about Muhammad in a Ha’aretz article by Gideon Levy, a few days after we went to Hebron to give a washing machine to Ghassan Burqan. If you read my previous post (Journey to Hebron: Nightmares and Hope ), you’ll remember that Ghassan had bought his own washing machine and was carrying it to his home in the Israeli-controlled side of Hebron when he was stopped by Border Police, beat up and arrested. The machine disappeared. In memory of our late friend Gerald Cromer, Elliott decided we should bring Ghassan a replacement.

Muhammad’s home was searched by soldiers who arrived at midnight. They said they were looking for weapons. The search lasted two hours. Muhammad, his wife Lubna, their two small daughters, and Muhammad’s younger brother Rami were all kept under guard in Rami’s home – a single-room shack built onto the side of Muhammad’s house. When the search was over, and the family rushed back into the main house, they found their computer and television smashed. And, they say, the jewelry box where Lubna kept her gold was gone.

Read moreJourney to Wadi al-Shajneh: The Illusion of Quiet

Journey to Hebron: Nightmares and Hope

Yehiel and I met Elliott at the appliance repairman’s shed on a side street in South Jerusalem.

Elliott Horowitz, a historian at Bar-Ilan University, had already paid for the almost-new washing machine, with cash that friends have pledged to repay. We wrestled the heavy white hunk of metal into the back of Yehiel’s undersized station wagon, and set off – three guys with skullcaps and graying beards driving to Hebron with a washing machine for a Palestinian stonecutter.

It was Elliott’s idea.

Read moreJourney to Hebron: Nightmares and Hope